Living in the Right Time Zone
Tony Cooke

Living in the Right Time ZoneThe more we mature, the more we realize that we are eternal beings living in a temporal world. We all have certain limitations to work within, so it’s important to be wise about how we allocate our energies—physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. This could have been a motivating factor behind the prayer we find in Psalm 90:12, “So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

To live effectively for God, we’ve got to be living in the right time zone. Some are stuck in the past, dwelling on past mistakes that can’t be changed, or even consumed with past victories that may keep them from accepting current opportunities. Others are living in the future, worried and fearful about things that may never happen. Which time zone should we be living in? We should be living in the moment, and for eternity. Billy Graham noted the connection between the now and the not yet. He said, “Heaven doesn’t make this life less important, it makes it more important.” Maximus said in the movie, Gladiator, “What we do in life echoes in eternity.”

I want to live so that when I stand before the Lord I have no regrets about how I lived my life, and how I invested my time, talents, and treasures in this earth. Of course, none of us will have lived flawlessly, and for that, we can all be grateful for the grace and mercy of God. Yet, we aspire with Paul, “So whether we are here in this body or away from this body, our goal is to please him” (2 Corinthians 5:9, NLT).

We’ve all heard of people who were labeled as being “so heavenly minded that they’re no earthly good.” We don’t advocate that, but in reality, probably far more people are so earthly-minded that they’re no heavenly good. In other words, they are so consumed with the “here and now” that they give little thought to the spiritual or the eternal. John Tillotson said, “He who provides for this life but takes no care for eternity is wise for a moment but a fool forever.”

In this sense, Christians need to live with an awareness of two time zones. We see a reference to this in 1 Timothy 4:8, where Paul said, “…godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.” The Apostle John also identified these two dimensions when he said, “Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (1 John 3:2-3).

A wise Christian recognizes who he is and what he has now, but he also realizes there is more to come. According to John, a future hope governs and mightily influences our present-day actions. We have been made new spiritually through the new birth, and we are growing in other ways as well (our mind is being renewed, our bodies are presented to God as living sacrifices, etc.), but we know that a greater, ultimate transformation also awaits us. We can say, “I’m not all that I shall be, but thank God I’m not what I used to be,” and “God loves me just the way I am, but He loves me too much to let me stay this way.”

Four Necessary Realities

In order to walk properly with an awareness of two time zones—in the tension of “the now and the not yet”—there are some principles for us to be mindful of and to walk in.

1. We are in the world but not of it. 

Jesus’ prayer in John 17:15-17 is most revealing. He prayed,“I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.” In essence, Jesus is not wanting us to be isolated from the world, but to be insulated from the evil that is in the world.

Dwight L. Moody said, “A Christian in the world is one thing, and the world in a Christian is quite another thing. A ship in the water is all right, but when the water gets in the ship, it is quite a different thing.”

Paul taught that, “…our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ…” When we understand our ultimate identity, and the reality of Who we really belong to, we’ll have a deeper appreciation for what it really means to be in the world but not of the world. We don’t get our values, our moral, our ethics, or our priorities from this world system; we receive them from God and His Word.

2. The best for us is yet to come.

Please note that I said, “for us.” I have no guarantees that the world is going to get better. Scripture paints no pollyanna, hyper-idealistic view about the world getting better and better. As a matter of fact, Scripture seems to indicate just the opposite. 2 Timothy 3:1-5 says, “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!”

That’s far from a cheery, rosey picture, and yet I’m confident that God will faithfully grace us and continuously empower us to live as overcomers in this world. Proverbs 4:18 reads, “But the path of the just is like the shining sun, that shines ever brighter unto the perfect day.” The world may be dark and getting darker, but our path is bright and getting brighter! Don’t look to this world for your peace, your joy, or your security; look to God! Max Lucado said, “Lower your expectations of earth. This isn’t heaven, so don’t expect it to be.”

The world didn’t give us our peace, our joy, our security, or our confidence, and as someone once said, the world can’t take it away. Psalm 73:24 says, “You will guide me with Your counsel, and afterward receive me to glory.” Not only do we have blessings and benefits in this life, but we have heaven and eternity to look forward to.

3. We are to seek things above.

There is nothing wrong with enjoying things here on earth or being diligent to experience success in life. Paul told Timothy to advise the rich not, “…to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17). It’s OK to enjoy things here on earth, but make sure that the things to do not possess you—that they don’t consume you or capture your heart’s devotion. Jesus spoke very powerfully and yet simply when He said, “Remember Lot’s wife” (Luke 17:32). Don’t look back!

John reminded us of the temporal nature of earthly things in 1 John 2:15-17. “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.

The more we have a revelation of heavenly things, the less we will value earthly, temporal things. The old hymn says it well, Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.” C.S. Lewis said, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”

Seeking things above does not mean becoming withdrawn, irresponsible, or negligent regarding our earthly responsibilities. We don’t only live in the book of Psalms—being drawn upward in worship. We also live in the book of Proverbs—living wisely in this life. Seeking things above means that we filter our day-to-day decisions through this question: “Of what value will this be in eternity?” C.S. Lewis also said, “If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.”

4. We are to influence the here and now.

Paul taught us that, …we are ambassadors for Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:20). We are not only to represent heaven, but we are reflect and carry God’s nature and express His will in the earth. When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, one of the key phrases was, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).

I prayed that hundred of times as a young person, ritualistically, without realizing the magnitude and significance of those words. One person said that we can never really pray (meaningfully) “Your kingdom come” unless we first pray “My kingdom go.” In other words, when we invite the kingdom of God to come, we are requesting His rule, His reign, and His governance in our lives. That means we’re surrendering our position as “Boss” and “Supreme Potentate” over our own lives, and fully submitting to His Lordship.

When we pray, “Your kingdom come,” He fully intends to have His kingdom—His rule and reign—expressed in us and through us. Jesus told His disciples, “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you” (John 20:21). We belong to Him now, and we will belong to Him eternally. He has given us a purpose and a destiny, and that involves representing Him upon this earth. We are salt, and we are light. Paul admonished believers, “…that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world…” (Philippians 2:15).

Let’s live effectively in two time zones—living in the moment, but for eternity. Remember, we are in this world but not of it. The best for us is yet to come. We are to seek things above. And we are to influence the here and now.